Free Will and Predestination in Islam
Predestination is a divisive issue that has not just been confined to Christianity, but is a prevalent issue within the Islamic community. Like Christianity the idea of free will has been an issue that is centuries old and possesses a highly divisive nature. To better understand free will and predestination in Islam it is important to first look at the history of the idea and to then review what Islamic theologians, such as al-Ghazali and Al-Hasan, have said on the matter. In studying this subject, it becomes evident that the argument of free will had major political and theological implications that made it become a formative element in Islam.
Despite Islam’s foundation in the 7th century A.D., the idea of predestination was already present in Arabic society. Modern historians have ascertained this through the study of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry. In these discovered works, the Arabs speak of their destinies as being completely predestined by the abstract force of Time, or dahr and zaman.1 Time itself was not necessarily a worshipped god, but was rather an abstract force that determined an individuals ajal, which is the length and date persons life will end.2 This idea of Time as an impersonal force formulated the idea fatalism. Fatalism posited that no matter what action a man took, his or her fortune and date of death had already been predetermined according to their ajal.3 This belief was particularly appealing in Arabia due to the unpredictable and harsh lifestyle. The unpredictability of Arabia, whether it was weather or robbers, made it nearly impossible for a man to completely prepare and defend himself from misfortune. Consequently, the view of fatalism allowed Arabs to cultivate an attitude of accepting what the day brought rather than try to prepare against every possibility of hardship. This view came to be known as fatalism4
Fatalism had been ingrained into the minds of Arabs for centuries...